The Hierarchy of Personal Powers

In his book Escape Velocity, Geoffrey Moore outlines five kinds of power big corporations must keep replenishing if they want to stay in business. In order of importance, they are:

  1. Category Power: Are you in industries that are naturally growing a lot right now?
  2. Company Power: How strong are you vs. your competitors? Are you the team to beat?
  3. Market Power: Which customer segments are you going after, and are you winning them?
  4. Offer Power: How differentiated are your flagship offers? Do others struggle to catch up?
  5. Execution Power: How good are you at driving change in all of the above?

In an accompanying talk from 2011, Moore names Apple as the golden example. Having just launched the iPad, they were in mobility, music, and media, all fast-growing markets. Competing smartphone and computer manufacturers all looked to Apple for what’s next. They had so much market power, people queued in front of their stores at midnight to get an iPhone in a new color, and their integrated ecosystem with the App Store, iTunes, and more made it hard to catch up in providing a similar offering. Finally, they had done all this in less than a decade.

Now, I’m not a multi-national company, but as I was thinking about how to apply this to my small business, I realized: To some extent, Moore’s hierarchy also applies at the personal level.

When I started freelancing, I offered translations. No one wanted translations, because even back then, computers were already doing a good enough job in most cases. Translations is a dying market, but content marketing? That was a rocket ship headed to the stars. By switching categories alone, I got more customers, more money, more relevant experience, and so on.

For Company (or Individual) Power, if you perform a certain service well, you’ll become people’s go-to reference. Just think about the one electrician in your neighborhood you know will get the job done. That’s company power. It’s Nike on a much smaller scale.

Part of unlocking your Individual Power resides in your Market Power: Choose to go small and specific, and it’ll be easier for people to self-select into working with you. Imagine a real estate agent who only works with people under 30. It’s a unique challenge, given those people tend to have less money than older folks – but if you pay attention, you’ll learn every nuance of what those people need, and they’ll come to you in droves.

Your Offer Power is another chance to niche down and/or think outside the box. If Four Minute Books were to offer the same text and audio book summaries in an app that every other player also has, we wouldn’t stand out. But what if we did video only? What if we made the service free and monetized otherwise? What if we did customized learning journeys for the individual? And so on.

Finally, Execution Power at the personal level is about productivity. Can you focus? Are you working on one coherent vision of power? Or is it all fragmented bits and bobs? One product here, another service over there, and none of them relate to each other. Are you wasting time on email, social media, and other looks-like-work-but-isn’t activities? Or can you set relevant targets and pull them off?

The kicker, I think, is that the hierarchy of personal powers extends well beyond the economic realm. What about charity work? What about your relationships? Why do people confide in you? Who are you most suited to help? If you dig a little, you’ll find a plethora of questions that’ll help you increase your personal power.

Power is not a bad thing – unless you think about using it for the wrong ends. Crushing the world in your palm? That’s not a good use of power. Drawing people into your world of help, love, and happiness, however? That’s the kind of magnetic power every one of us could use more of.

It’s a noble goal to have noble goals, but to achieve them, first, you’ll need power. Don’t be afraid to build what you need to do good in this world.